We will be starting a Sacred Ground Dialogue Study Group in February. Sacred Ground is a film- and readings-based dialogue series on race, grounded in faith. Small groups walk through chapters of America’s history of race and racism, while weaving in threads of family story, economic class, and political and regional identity. It focuses on Indigenous, Black, Latino, and Asian American histories as they intersect with European American histories. Please check it out online at https://episcopalchurch.org/sacred-ground. If you are interested or have questions please contact Janice Flood email@example.com.
The Young Adult Gathering is reading Everybody Always: Becoming Love in a World of Setbacks and Difficult People by Bob Goff. The next meeting is, Monday, Jan 25th, 7-8 PM.
Our meeting time is still a work in progress so it may change based on participant availability. We will discuss chapter 4 & 5. If you have questions, contact Janice Flood firstname.lastname@example.org.
A summary of the book: What happens when we stop avoiding difficult people and simply love everyone? In his wildly entertaining and inspiring follow-up to the New York Times bestselling phenomenon Love Does, Bob Goff takes readers on a life-altering journey into the secret of living without fear, care, constraint, or worry. The path toward the outsized, unfettered, liberated existence we all long for is found in a truth as simple to say as it is hard to do: love people, even the difficult ones, without distinction and without limits. Driven by Bob’s trademark hilarious and insightful storytelling, Everybody, Always reveals the lessons Bob learned – often the hard way – about what it means to love without inhibition, insecurity, or restriction. From finding the right friends to discovering the upside of failure, Everybody, Always points the way to embodying love by doing the unexpected, the intimidating, the seemingly impossible. Everybody, Always reveals how we can do the same.
We now have Bible story time for children on our YouTube channel!
Alli and Leah Thress, two of our parish youth, read children’s stories from The Jesus Story Book Bible . Their mom, Shelly Ray Alarcon, is the narrator. Joel accompanies the story with background music.
We have copies of this book for your family, so your children or grandchildren can read along. Please contact the church office, to arrange a pickup of your own complementary copy (one per household).
We have two stories to share now, and look for additional stories in the near future! Your children can watch these over and over again, since they are on our YouTube channel.
“Jerry, did you see the baby?” That popular line from an old Seinfeld episode rings through my head whenever there is a new parent around. Happy, proud parents and grandparents cannot help but gush around family and friends when there’s a new family addition. They show adorable photos and giggle at silly baby antics. The atmosphere, charged with excitement and enthusiasm for the future, is joyous and hopeful for families.
In the Seinfeld episode that made this line famous, viewers learn that the baby was not quite as beautiful to outsiders as he was to his parents. The startled expressions on the faces of onlookers compared to the parent’s adoration made the episode memorable and quite funny. Even though the episode is very amusing, I can’t relate to Jerry and his friends’ cynicism over the newborn but I can totally understand the joy of the newborn parents—for all babies are beautiful and true miracles!
“John, did you see the baby Jesus?” How I wish I could have gotten a look at that baby miracle! I’ve certainly heard glowing reports about the infant—I know you have too. Paintings of him—by artists who never saw him—often depict a glowing circle of light around his head, known as a nimbus or a halo. But he came as one of us, as an infant, the Word made flesh.
I believe that glow only became visible to people, other than his adoring parents, much after the fact. As he left that manger and grew into adulthood, I’m sure the neighbors noticed that Mary and Joseph’s child was different. At a young age, he taught lessons at the Synagogue and confounded scholars. Later, he drew large crowds of followers and skeptics, and performed numerous miracles. When, I wonder, did the neighbors realize they were looking at God incarnate?
The mystery of the Incarnation is unfathomable. The Creed of St. Athanasius states it clearly:
“Our Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God, is God and man…perfect God, and perfect man…although he be God and man: yet he is not two, but one Christ; one, not by conversion of the Godhead into flesh: but by taking of the manhood into God.” (BCP 864) Our minds cannot fathom God’s nature embodied in human life. Incomprehensible, yes, but we are wise to shun speculation and contentedly adore.
Only after his death, and resurrection, did people fully begin to understand “the Word became flesh and dwelt among us”. They began to connect the dots and understand Jesus’ life and death fulfilled Old Testament prophecies. They, and now we, need the Holy Spirit to help bring about that realization too. Scripture and the Holy Spirit enlightened them, as it can us. Only then, can we proclaim, “we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.” John 1:14.
This Christmas, I pray you can answer the question, “Did you see the baby?” with the joyous realization that God dwelt among us and is with us now.
Fr. John Schaeffer
The Christmas Truce of 1914
“The light shines in the darkness and the darkness did not overcome it” John 1:5
Whenever I hear that verse on Christmas, I think of its profound mystical meaning, however, I also think of the most moving modern story of Christmas: The Christmas Truce of World War I in 1914.
On that Christmas, the world had been at war for four months. The horrors had reached a scale that no nation had seen in previous wars. Any illusions of a short conflict with a swift victory had been dispelled.
On the Western Front of Europe, however, the guns of August fell silent. There was a Christmas Truce. A respite from carnage.
There was no fear of enemy fire from either side across that deadly space between the trenches. Instead, enemies gathered as friends in that no man’s land. Despite bomb-craters and barbed wires, gifts of food, tobacco, and alcohol were exchanged. There were pick-up games of football (soccer as we Americans call it). In one contest, Germany beat England 3-2.
On Christmas Eve, candles were lit in the dark. German troops serenaded the opposing forces with “Stille Nacht,” “Silent Night.”
Christmas ended and so did the Christmas Truce of 1914. The soldiers who exchanged gifts once again exchanged fire for whatever reasons governments say that they must go to war. Such a Christmas Truce would never happen again.
The war and the soldiers slogged on for four years. But on that Christmas of 1914, the light did shine in the darkness of total war and the darkness did not overcome it.
Christian educator John Westerhoff said, “Christmas is about the birth of a possibility.”
During Christmas 1914 on the Western Front, there was a vision of that possibility of peace on earth and good will to all.
The Rev. Robert Russell Smith